Back to Basics Exhibition, Leeds – 20 Years of Iconic Images

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back to basics exhibition leeds art gallery

Back To Basics Exhibition, Leeds

Back to Basics at Leeds Gallery draws together a collection of the iconic images used to promote just some of more than one thousand parties thrown by legendary Leeds club night Back to Basics, since it opened its doors 20 years ago.

Each image was created by the club’s promoter, resident artist and “purveyor of good times”, Dave Beer. They are part of an ongoing collaboration with designer Nic Gundill – a partnership that has lasted two decades. From the very beginning Dave approached the flyers as a form of free art for the masses – embodying the club’s punk roots – to be shared on the bedroom walls of a generation of club kids.

They also embody Dave’s deep passion for and appreciation of contemporary art. But whilst many lines can be traced between this work and that of other acts of appropriation in art (“practising without a license” as Richard Prince once put it) – in reality, these flyers carve out their own aesthetic space. The images represent instinctive acts, specific to both the sub-culture that surrounds them and to the individual who realised them. They capture a point in the club’s story and offer a lens through which to explore our shared cultural and social history.

“It’s part of the mainstream now, yet back then we were the only ones doing it”

Dave says: “I’ve always approached each flyer as a piece of art. I prioritise the image and its message over the actual information about the night it was supposed to be promoting. I spent so much time refining the flyers, many were delivered late. So late, in fact, that the party had often already happened by the time the flyer went to print! I look around at street culture today, at the work of artists like Banksy, and see a real connection between what we were doing then and what they are doing today. It’s crazy to think that there is so much of that work happening now. Not just on the streets, but on greeting cards and t-shirts. It’s totally part of the mainstream, and yet back then we were the only ones doing it.”

Nic says: “It’s been 20 years of colouring in for Basics. Longer than most relationships or marriages last. Longer than you’d serve even for murder. It’s probably testament to us both originally hailing from Pontefract and having a special connection from day one in 1991. Then producing artwork by hand cutting out type, using a repromaster camera and darkroom. Some would say we’ve grown together. But most probably not grown up at all. Our work still has as its ethos, the edgy, sense of humour and fuck forever attitude championed by Back to Basics for the last two decades.”

“Inspire nostalgia and knowing laughter”

Whilst some of these images have been displayed in a gallery context before, most notably at the Barbican Centre and Ultra Lounge at Selfridges & Co in London, this is the first time an exhibition dedicated to the artwork of Back to Basics has been shown. For some they will inspire shock and even disgust. For others they will inspire nostalgia and knowing laughter.

Excess All Areas until 19th March, Leeds Gallery, Munro House, Corner Duke Street and York Street, LS9 8AG
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 10am – 6pm. Sundays by appointment only.

All images: Nic Gundill

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